The government has changed the rules to give quicker access to compensation for all people who are diagnosed with asbestos-related lung disorders.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs or abdomen, associated almost exclusively with asbestos, and is invariably fatal. It is the number one cause of work-related deaths in the UK, with about 1,800 deaths per year. That figure is expected to rise to about 2,500 deaths between 2010 and 2015 as the effect of exposure in the 1960s and 1970s comes to light.
Until now, only people who contracted the disease from exposure to asbestos while employed were eligible to claim compensation from the state. The changes break this occupational link and provide financial support to those:
- Exposed to asbestos from a relative
- Exposed to asbestos environmentally
- Who cannot trace their exposure to asbestos.
In 2006, the government introduced the Compensation Act, which made negligent employers jointly liable for compensation in asbestos-related mesothelioma cases.
Cases of mesothelioma in the UK used to occur mainly in people who had worked in shipbuilding and heavy engineering industries. But an increasing proportion is now being diagnosed in staff who may have had less intense exposure, such as those in the building industry. This could mean large numbers of people are at risk of the disease who may be unaware of their exposure to asbestos.